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Use your laptop for a tracing backlight. Laptop Macs
I needed a darkened version of a sketch I made, but I didn't want to go scan it and darken it. I decided to make a copy the old fashioned way -- trace it.

However, the lamp wasn't bright enough, and I didn't have access to a backlit desk. Then it hit me; my laptop has a backlight, a very bright backlight in fact.

How to use your screen as a light box:
  • Turn your laptop so that the screen is horizontal.
  • Prop up the body so the screen stays flat.
  • Set your desktop to solid white, or open a solid white window. If you set the desktop color, hide everything else.
  • Make sure the screen brightness is turned all the way up.
I used my 13.3" MacBook Pro, which was slightly small for a 8.5x11" paper. A larger screen would certainly be better.

[crarko adds: I've used an iPhone as a flashlight, but would not have thought of using a laptop as a light table. Clever idea.]
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Use your laptop for a tracing backlight. | 23 comments | Create New Account
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Use your laptop for a tracing backlight.
Authored by: elevensix on Feb 17, '12 07:59:05AM

I tend to use a window. Of course this only works in the daytime.



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Use your laptop for a tracing backlight.
Authored by: rusto on Feb 17, '12 08:21:07AM

I'd be very leery about doing this without something transparent and HARD like a sheet of glass between whatever I'm tracing with (pencil? pen? marker?) and the screen.



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Use your laptop for a tracing backlight.
Authored by: cdfmrl on Feb 17, '12 08:58:51AM

That sounds like a really bad idea, depending on the implement you're using to trace. The last thing you want is some permanent marker on your screen because you slipped!



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Use your laptop for a tracing backlight.
Authored by: alanh on Feb 21, '12 08:50:08AM

Permanent marker is easily removed with rubbing alcohol or some other alcohol-based cleaner.

Also, since I was using an 8.5x11" paper on a 13" diagonal screen, there was no danger of slipping off the paper.



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Use your laptop for a tracing backlight.
Authored by: billabOng on Feb 17, '12 09:14:33AM

You call this a hint? Please bring Rob back.



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Use your laptop for a tracing backlight.
Authored by: BraindeadMac on Feb 17, '12 09:44:34AM

This is a hint? Is there an editor? Other ideas: use your mini as a paperweight or panini press.....



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Use your laptop for a tracing backlight.
Authored by: ijordison on Feb 17, '12 10:46:26AM

Using an iPhone screen as a backlight isn't a terrible idea. There's a layer of hard glass between you and the soft screen.

But a laptop? The kind of screen that gets dark spots if you poke at it? This seems like a recipe for having whatever you're tracing permanently visible on your screen.



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Use your laptop for a tracing backlight.
Authored by: Peganthyrus on Feb 17, '12 10:56:53AM

Caveat: Only do this if your device has a glass screen. You don't want to do this on an Air!

I've never used a computer for a lightbox, but I've used a window on a sunny day. It's awkward but it works when you don't have one around. I also have a glass coffee table, mostly because it looks good, but the fact that I can throw a light under it to use as a light table is certainly a bonus.



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Use your laptop for a tracing backlight.
Authored by: menace690 on Feb 17, '12 12:52:07PM

Terrible idea. So easy to accidentally press too hard and crack the screen...



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Use your laptop for a tracing backlight.
Authored by: alanh on Feb 21, '12 08:51:40AM

If you press that hard, this tip is not for you. ;)



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Use your laptop for a tracing backlight.
Authored by: wallybear on Feb 17, '12 01:21:17PM

And in case you have no tools near, you can use it as a hammer....
...or a door stop....
...or to level a table with a shorter leg....
...or use a dozen of them as pilates...
...as a frisbee...
...and of course, as a notebook.

Lot of uses!

:)



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Use your laptop for a tracing backlight.
Authored by: AmplifiedLife on Feb 17, '12 08:33:30PM

Excellent. Good clean fun. Thanks to original poster and this commenter.



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Use your laptop for a tracing backlight.
Authored by: sd on Feb 20, '12 12:23:59AM

;-)



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Use your laptop for a tracing backlight.
Authored by: alanh on Feb 21, '12 09:03:03AM

I was serious when I made this post. I did it, and it worked for what I needed to do. ;)

I'm sure it could work for all the things you suggested, but at 1.25" thick, using my laptop as a doorstop would probably not be very effective. That, and I'm not in the market for a new one.



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Use your laptop for a tracing backlight.
Authored by: ragnu on Feb 18, '12 07:04:25AM

Thank you for sharing, wallybear. I'm having trouble, though, using my macbook air as a frisbee. I'm running 10.7.3 and everything else is working just fine. The folks at Apple Care say this is a known issue, and can be traced back to hardware rectangularity, but they've been less than forthcoming about a solution. Any help would be most appreciated.



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Use your laptop for a tracing backlight.
Authored by: wallybear on Feb 20, '12 11:00:03AM

There is a simple solution to your problem.
Just buy or borrow another MacBook and use it as an hammer on the edges of the four corners of your future frisbee, until you get a rounded shape: the rounder the better. It will require some trial and error, but eventually you will succed.
Just please don't launch your shiny new frisbee at your dog, it could get hurt.

:)



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Use your laptop for a tracing backlight.
Authored by: Notgruntled on Feb 18, '12 12:09:47PM

I've used an LCD monitor (not on a laptop) as a light table for negatives; open a blank browser window in full-screen, shoot with a digital camera, and invert in Photoshop. The quality is not good, but it's sufficient for a contact sheet of large-format negatives so you can decide which ones you want to pay to have scanned.



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Use your laptop for a tracing backlight.
Authored by: RossGGG on Feb 18, '12 02:50:53PM

You guys are being kind of harsh. I had to do this on occasion when I was an art student and my laptop is still in mint condition. It actually works well in a pinch.



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Use your laptop for a tracing backlight.
Authored by: philostein on Feb 18, '12 06:23:02PM

Agreed. It's not like the submitter's telling little kids to do it. If someone posted a hint about using the edge of an Air as a bread knife, I'd just decide that it wasn't for me.



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Use your laptop for a tracing backlight.
Authored by: wallybear on Feb 20, '12 12:26:43PM

Really? Do you mean it cannot be used for bread? It could work as a cake knife? For butter? For taking apart oysters?

Don't take it too seriously, let's us joking a little, life is so short.

And remember, if you need to trace a really little sketch, you can use your iPhone with similar results.

:D



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Use your laptop for a tracing backlight.
Authored by: alanh on Feb 21, '12 09:00:16AM

It is true, this is primarily a glass-screen tip. I specified my model.

Damage would only occur if you press really, really hard. We're talking a pencil here. I used B-hardness lead, which may affect the outcome. Don't press any harder than you would for normal writing—you're not doing an etching.

A window would have worked, but I was at a part of a library where there were no windows.

I'm also the guy that drew on the lid of my laptop with a pencil. ;)



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Use your laptop for a tracing backlight.
Authored by: Scottcoletti on Feb 21, '12 09:51:41AM

I matched an old iBook with a white screen set up and 2 refurbished APC UPS batteries for emergency light ( as well as audio player/ recorder, & music alarm clock,. I have only used it once in the last 6 years and the screen lit up the entire room for over 40 min on one battery before the electricity came back on. I have not bothered calculating how many minutes each battery would provide. I have not had to change batteries yet, but replacement lead acid batteries are less than 20 bucks.



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Use your laptop for a tracing backlight.
Authored by: ClausD on Feb 21, '12 06:07:22PM

I have used the screen of a laptop as background light for experimental photography with great luck. I used an old IBM Thinkpad as I wouldn't risk my beloved MBP. ;o)) It is n fact a very funny idea, as You have a polarized glass in front, and if You place some plastic objects on the screen, and use a polarizing filter on your camera, you can get many funny results.



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